Just because you suffer an injury in an accident doesn’t necessarily mean you need a personal injury lawyer. You might be able to handle a small or simple claim on your own. If certain complications arise, however, you probably do need a lawyer. Following is a discussion of some of these complications.
12 Situations That Indicate You Should Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
If one of the following red flags applies to your claim, seek an initial consultation with a Chicago personal injury attorney. Personal injury lawyers generally work for free unless they win or settle your claim. If they offer to represent you after learning about your claim, it probably means they believe in your claim.
Err on the side of caution (in other words, on the side of hiring a lawyer) if you don’t feel confident in your ability to handle your claim on your own.
You Are Seeking Punitive Damages
You can walk away from a personal injury claim with a lot of money if a court awards you punitive damages. The problem is few courts award them, and opposing parties almost never agree to them during negotiations.
The burden of proof is higher for punitive damages than for compensatory damages, and the defendant’s conduct must have been outrageous. Nevertheless, you might still win punitive damages for, say, a DUI accident or an intentional criminal assault.
Your Claim Is Large
You can expect a lot of resistance from the opposing party any time you ask for a large amount of damages. The more money at stake, the harder the opposing party may fight. They might even go so far as to hire a private detective to gather evidence to use against you. They might also institute other measures, such as hiring an expert witness to testify.
You Suspect Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice claims are almost always difficult to win without a lawyer. They tend to be scientifically complex, and the use of expert witnesses by both sides is routine. Doctors are hostile to medical malpractice claims because they see them as an attack on their reputation.
The Injury Victim Dies
As long as a personal injury victim remains alive, they have a personal injury claim. If they die, however, the claim becomes a wrongful death claim. In Illinois, the personal representative (executor) of the deceased victim’s probate estate files the wrongful death lawsuit. Recoveries tend to be large.
A Defective Product Injures You
If you suffer an injury caused by a defective product, you might have a product liability claim. The hard part will be proving that the product that injured you was not only defective but “unreasonably dangerous.”
It must have had a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a warning defect. Similar to medical malpractice claims, the use of expert witnesses in product liability claims is routine.
Your Injuries Are Long-Term or Permanent
If you suffer long-term or permanent injuries, your losses might still pile up by the time you file your claim. In fact, this situation might be inevitable since the statute of limitations allows you to delay asserting your claim for only so long.
The problem in this scenario is that you will have to guesstimate your future damages and tack them onto your claim. Imagine trying to calculate medical expenses or lost earnings 20 years in advance, and you will understand why you need a lawyer to help. It is absolutely critical that you get these calculations right because you won’t be able to come back and ask for more money.
The Insurance Company Is Playing Games With You
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They make money by charging monthly premiums, not by paying injured victims compensation. For this reason, insurance companies will do anything they can to deny or minimize the value of your claim. These companies have 1,000 tricks up their sleeves, but simply hiring a reputable personal injury lawyer will encourage an insurance company to think twice before treating you unfairly.
Liability Is in Dispute
In some personal injury claims, liability is clear, and the only dispute lies in how much the claim is worth. In other cases, however, both sides can present plausible evidence that points to the other party’s fault. You probably need a lawyer if there is any doubt about whose fault the accident was.
You Were Partly at Fault
Even if you were not completely at fault for the accident, you might bear some responsibility. Illinois applies a system known as modified comparative fault when two or more parties share fault for an accident.
If your percentage of fault is at least 51%, you will receive no compensation. Anything less than 51%, and you will lose whatever percentage of compensation represents your own percentage of fault (30%, for example). The opposing party will try to “nickel and dime you to death” by finding ways to jack up your responsibility until it reaches the critical threshold of 51%.
Your Non-Economic Damages Are High
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, and other types of intangible losses. Unlike medical expenses and lost earnings, they are hard to put a dollar value on. That is exactly why you need a personal injury lawyer—to translate your intangible losses into tangible dollars and cents.
The Opposing Party Holds Critical Evidence
In law, unfortunately, the truth only matters to the extent you can provide it. And the only way to provide it is with admissible evidence. The problem is that much of the evidence might be in the hands of the opposing party.
A commercial truck’s event data recorder, for example, might hold critical evidence about a traffic accident that injured you. The only way to get this evidence might be to engage in the pretrial discovery process, which requires you to file a lawsuit first. The problem with representing yourself is that you will probably need an attorney to help you file a lawsuit to engage in discovery.
The Opposing Party Is Stubborn
Sometimes there is no rational reason why a party won’t settle. In such cases, you might need to be prepared to fight it out to the bitter end — and for that, you will probably need a lawyer. If your lawyer has a strong enough reputation, the opposing party might just experience a sudden “attitude adjustment.”
How a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Your Chicago personal injury attorneys. can help you in more ways than you are likely to be able to think of. They can negotiate on your behalf. They can analyze your claim, advise you of your options, and plot strategy for you. Best of all, you will owe your lawyer nothing in legal fees until they settle or win your claim. That means you won’t owe any cash upfront.